Electronic music – music typically created using Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) and played out live using turntables – is growing in significance within music education. Not only have DJ decks been incorporated into music education curriculums such as GCSEs, DAWs are also becoming fundamental to teaching practices.
This recognition has been a long time coming – for most students, music classes offered by schools have largely focused almost exclusively on acoustic instruments, with the classical genre as the primary focus. The majority of schoolchildren do not listen to classical or jazz music but are often expected to embrace it when studying music in school. This has alienated many music-loving young people from pursuing music academically or as a form of self-expression. Electronic music is as much an art form as any other genre, but music curriculums have been slow to acknowledge this.
At the core of the changing perception of electronic music in education has been the rising use and power of the DAW. While traditional instruments can be excellent tools to develop music performance and sheet reading, these are a narrow set of skills. DAWs provide a canvas in which a budding artist can learn about the many aspects of music – theory, song-writing, arrangement and performance – all within one piece of software.
Not only does such software have many educational advantages over traditional instruments, it is also far more accessible. Lots of DAWs are free, offered at low cost or subsidised for students. The fact that the software is easy to get hold of is one reason why digitally created electronic music has been at the forefront of underground music culture for so long. For example, several early grime producers made their instrumentals on a CD game called ‘Music 2000’ on the PlayStation!
While schools play catch-up with modern music-making practices and culture, the way in which music is taught is also rapidly changing. The affect of the COVID-19 pandemic on education, dramatically impacting students’ access to teaching and resources, has shown how crucial this need for change has become.
Here at FutureDJs we are again on the cutting edge of change in music education – this time through the new Virtuoso online teaching platform. In the same way that digital technologies opened up music-making to everyone with a computer, Virtuoso is now opening up music education to all. It gives students the opportunity to express their creativity and develop their art at a time when it is more needed than ever, by providing expert teaching, learning resources and access to the Soundtrap DAW.
Music venues may be closed for now, but music is very much alive. It is through the digital that music is now sustaining itself and flourishing. As students and educators adapt to this new learning environment, it is becoming very clear how important electronic music now is – for both artistic expression and the teaching of the next generation of musicians.